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Confusion, Testy Exchanges Mark the Beginning of Dallas’ Search for a New City Manager

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Council members Jaynie Schultz, Adam Bazaldua, Paula Blackmon, Chad West, and Tennell Atkins discuss points during the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs meeting on February 26, 2024. Bethany Erickson

The Dallas City Council gathered for two meetings this week to begin the process of hiring a replacement for City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who said last week that he would resign on June 3.

And that process had a rocky start. Broadnax announced his resignation Wednesday, which triggered three members of the City Council to schedule a meeting for Tuesday. Mayor Eric Johnson then scheduled a separate meeting for Monday, led by an ad hoc committee that he has ordered to head up the search for a replacement.

The conflicting meeting requests continued the confusion of the prior week, following reporting by WFAA that eight council members had worked behind the scenes to formally request Broadnax’s resignation without involving seven of their colleagues, including the mayor. Asking for the city manager’s resignation, whether in a formal public meeting or informally, could trigger a clause in his contract that would allow him to receive severance equal to 12 months of his full salary, $423,246.

The City Council spent portions of the two meetings getting on the same page, a unity that has been woefully lacking around the horseshoe. Monday’s meeting was a briefing of the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs, which Johnson tasked with doing the bulk of the heavy lifting on the city manager search. That committee consists of Tennell Atkins, Cara Mendelsohn, Jesse Moreno, Paul Ridley, and Kathy Stewart. 

However, all 14 council members showed up, despite the mayor appointing just five to the committee. Johnson was the only member absent, and he also missed Tuesday’s.

The two agendas were nearly identical, but Tuesday’s meeting also included a discussion and vote to approve Kimberly Tolbert, a top Broadnax deputy, as interim city manager upon her boss’ departure this summer.

That created a brief and testy exchange Tuesday as Council Member Adam Bazaldua made a motion to discharge the ad hoc committee from the duplicate duties. City Attorney Tammy Palomino explained it was a procedural move—the full Council couldn’t take up the duplicate items until they had been removed from the committee’s list of duties. Council can vote to return those items to the committee’s purview later. 

“We shouldn’t even be here today,” Mendelsohn said. She felt that the fact that three members signed a memo to schedule the meeting was not transparent.

“That’s in the charter,” Council Member Omar Narvaez said of the mechanism that allows three council members to request a meeting. Ultimately, 12 members voted to discharge the committee, while Mendelsohn and Ridley voted against it. Council then went into closed session to discuss performance evaluations for specific employees, as well as the appointment of Tolbert as interim city manager. The body ultimately voted 12-2 to give the interim job to Tolbert on June 3, Broadnax’s last day. Ridley and Mendelsohn were the two votes against. Once she begins the interim role, Tolbert will receive a 15 percent pay bump in her current salary to $367,683.

Much of Monday’s meeting focused on the timeline and what information city staff needs to begin the search. Human Resources Director Nina Arias and Procurement Director Danielle Thompson briefed the Council on their options, including hiring a search firm to conduct a national search. They also discussed a timeline for hiring that firm, conducting the search, and naming a new city manager, as outlined in a draft document the two departments crafted over the weekend.

Thompson explained that the first order of business is for the Council to determine the scope of the work for a search firm. A request for proposal, or RFP, she said, would need to include details like compensation and job expectations for the incoming city manager because search firms would use that information to help decide whether to throw their hats in the ring.

“The entire procurement process is contingent on receiving the proper feedback from the Council,” Thompson said.

That feedback includes everything from the job description to how input is sought from city employees and residents. In his memo last week, Mayor Johnson said he would be looking for a city manager who focuses on public safety, taxpayers, basic services, communication, and accountability. 

Monday, council members were clear they had additional requirements, with several pointing to the equity work that Broadnax spearheaded during his tenure. 

“At what point do we begin talking about as a body … the type of city manager that this organization needs?” asked Council Member Zarin Gracey, who represents portions of southern Dallas.

Local News

How Deep Ellum Is Placing Its History Alongside Its Present

By Micaih Thomas |
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Deep Ellum Foundation

Deep Ellum is no longer just the collection of 1950s and 1960s warehouses and storefronts that fostered one of the state’s most vibrant music and arts scenes. Its early history as a melting pot for previously enslaved people and European immigrants was literally torn down and replaced with a highway. As the neighborhood welcomes new chain concepts, office space, and luxury apartments, its many eras can be difficult to see represented among all the new activity.

Photographers Steven Reeves, Sam Bortnick, and Justin Terveen are working to place its history alongside its present. A partnership with the Deep Ellum Foundation and the Dallas Public Library has hung banners of their work alongside historic photos of the neighborhood. Thirteen banners are spread across the district: five from the early 20th century, two from the early 2000s, and six from the present decade.

You can see the Knights of Pythias Temple as it was inthe 1920s, which is today the boutique Kimpton Pittman Hotel. Another image features the Continental Gin building’s water tower, which is today office space but was once the country’s largest producer of cotton gins. A banner near the Adam Hats Lofts shows the building’s former life as a Ford plant. Another shot of Elm Street depicts Model Ts rolling alongside a streetcar line, framed next to the present-day view of the skyscrapers a few blocks away in downtown.

The photos serve as a reminder of the fading narratives.

Local News

Leading Off (2/26/24)

Zac Crain
By |

Mavs’ Win Streak Snapped. Dallas had won seven in a row until kicking off a four-game road trip in Indianapolis yesterday afternoon. The Mavs cut a double-digit lead to 104-100 behind a nine-point Kyrie Irving run, but the Pacers bounced back and won going away. Euless Trinity’s own Myles Turner led Indy with a season-high 33 points. Next up for the Mavs: the Cavs tonight.

Record Highs Expected. We haven’t hit 90 degrees in February since 1917, but the temperature is supposed get there later today. I’m not built for this. I’m sorry. A normal late February day should be in the low 60s.

Perot Museum Distributing 1 Million Pairs of Eclipse Safety Glasses. Pretty cool. I already have a pair. I wonder if they’ll give me a tank top for this unseasonable weather instead.

Local News

A Dismal Snapshot of the First Three Days of Early Primary Voting

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Democratic primary voters outnumber Republican voters at the Lochwood Library polling location by nearly 2 to 1 after three days of early voting. Bret Redman

Early voting in the March primary elections began Tuesday, and so far, turnout has been slow in Dallas County. 

The Republican and Democratic ballots include dozens of races, including two Dallas County commissioner seats, a whole slate of judges, state and federal lawmakers, and the president of the United States. 

Out of 1,424,183 registered Dallas County voters, roughly 24,217 have voted in the first three days of early voting. If you’re doing the math at home, that is 1.7 percent of registered voters.

To break that down further, 21,597 people have cast early votes, and another 2,620 have mailed in ballots. Of those mail-in ballots, 1,975 voted in the Democratic primary, and 645 returned ballots for the Republican primary. Voters have cast 8,902 early GOP ballots and 12,695 Democratic ballots.

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With No New Facility Coming Anytime Soon, Dallas Animal Services Gets Creative

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Loretta, a larger mixed-breed dog, was adopted from Dallas Animal Services in October. Bethany Erickson

When the upcoming $1.25 billion bond package appears on May ballots, there will be many programs and requests for funding that didn’t make the cut. One of those is a request from Dallas Animal Services, which tried and failed to make a case for a new $114 million facility last fall.

The current shelter, which sits on Interstate 30 and Westmoreland Road, was originally built to contain animals that were picked up because they were dangerous or seized by law enforcement. It now holds animals much longer in hopes of reuniting them with their families or adopting them out. The department has a goal of releasing 90 percent of its animals to fosters, adoption, or reunification. It met that goal in 2019-2020. In January, the live release rate was 85 percent for cats and dogs.

“We used to think of animal control as protecting people from animals, and the humane society was protecting animals from people. But now animal control is often expected to do both,” Mary Martin, the assistant director of Dallas Animal Services, said last fall.

That means that DAS is almost chronically overflowing with adoptable pets. In previous meetings, shelter officials said that overcrowding means that there aren’t enough play spaces for dogs to socialize or for prospective families to always have the opportunity to comfortably interact with a potential new pet.

The new shelter would have addressed all of that and would have created more space for the community to come in and interact with animals. 

Until funding comes through, DAS will rely on foster programs and incentives to entice the would-be pet owners to consider adoption. On Friday, the department announced that it would offer $50 Petco gift cards this weekend for the first 75 people to adopt a dog. The shelter is at 139 percent capacity for dogs, with large breed dogs making up most of that. Last weekend, the shelter received 161 dogs over a three-day period.

Local News

Leading Off (2/23/24)

Bethany Erickson
By |

SOS. If you were not one of at least 74,000 people who walked around all morning yesterday with your phone saying “SOS,” love that for you. A massive national outage impacted several carriers, but mostly AT&T. By yesterday afternoon, service had returned. AT&T explained the cause was an oops during a network expansion, not solar flares or cyber attacks.

Mail Carrier’s Widow to Attend SOTU. U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett said this week that Carla Gates, the widow of the late mail carrier Eugene Gates, will attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address as her guest in March. The Lancaster resident’s husband died while delivering mail in June’s extreme heat. She now advocates for safer conditions for mail carriers.

No Summer Lunches in Texas. Texas will not participate in a $2.5 billion summer lunch program that could help 3.8 million qualifying children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Texas is losing about $450 million in federal tax dollars. The state says the feds didn’t give enough notice to implement it. Thirty-five states are participating.

Southwest Ground Workers Get a Raise. Southwest Airlines ground workers have negotiated a contract with the airline to give ramp, operations, provisioning, and freight agents an average raise of 18 percent. Transport Workers Union Local 555 says they last had a pay increase almost three years ago. Members will vote to ratify the new contract once the union provides a timeline.

Local News

Dallas’ Effort to Consider an Interim City Manager Stumbles Out of the Gate

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Then-Downtown Dallas CEO Kourtny Garrett interviews City Manager T.C. Broadnax at the Sheraton Dallas hotel on October 28, 2021. Broadnax announced Wednesday that he would resign his post, effective June 3. Tim Rogers

This story was first published on 2/22. It was most recently updated on 2/23 at 10:30 a.m. to reflect an additional city council committee meeting.

In the wake of City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s resignation announcement, a new conflict has apparently arisen between Mayor Eric Johnson and some of the City Council.

Just hours after six Council members drafted a news release Wednesday announcing Broadnax’s impending departure, members Jaime Resendez, Jaynie Schultz, and Adam Bazaldua filed a three-person memo requesting a special-called briefing on February 27 to consider appointing Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert as interim city manager. 

On Thursday afternoon, Johnson fired off his own memo, saying, in part, that it is “important for us to work together to create a successful transition and determine a path forward.”

In the memo, he placed the search process in the hands of the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs and added council members Paul Ridley and Kathy Stewart to the committee. Until Thursday, the committee consisted of three people: Tennell Atkins, Cara Mendelsohn, and Jesse Moreno.

The mayor also said he would not attend the February 27 meeting, arguing there’s “no need or reason to rush this process.” Since Broadnax’s resignation isn’t effective until June 3, discussions about search processes and interim city managers, he wrote, can be added to upcoming agendas. The Council’s next regular meeting is February 28.

Since Dallas has a weak mayor system, Johnson has little control over whether the Council opts to consider an interim city manager at next week’s special-called meeting. Aside from a handful of administrative duties and presiding over meetings and briefings, his powers are those of a 15th, at-large council member.

The agenda for February 27’s special-called meeting was posted late Thursday evening. The first order of business is a discussion about Broadnax’s resignation and a resolution to appoint Tolbert as interim city manager on his last day, June 3. The body will then discuss the search process for Broadnax’s permanent replacement.

Shortly after that agenda was posted, a meeting was scheduled for the now-expanded Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs.  The agenda for that meeting, which will be held on Monday, is roughly what Johnson outlined as the committee’s duties in his memo.

Should the mayor not attend the special called meeting next Tuesday, the City Council will have the opportunity to name an interim without the mayor present. If there is no consensus for Tolbert, they could move to defer the vote or table the matter.

Without fail, the cast and crew of the Dallas-Fort Worth-based theater troupe Los Bastardos arrive at the Inwood Theatre on the last Saturday of every month to perform a live shadow cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show as it’s played on one of the three screens.

Victor Entropy and his fellow castmates act out the movie below the screen, encouraging the audience to play along. But this Saturday’s show is a question mark—the theater’s landlord, Inwood Village, has posted a lockout notice on the door. 

Entropy says that although the lockout saddens the group because they feel it is their home theater, he believes the closure is only temporary. The show listing remains on the group’s website and social media accounts.

“We anticipate knowing more come Friday or Saturday, and very much hope to be gracing their stage this weekend,” he said.

The lockout notice says that Inwood Village terminated the lease on February 19 because of “a default.” The theater has been owned by Landmark Theatres since 2929 Entertainment (owned by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner) purchased Landmark in 2003. They sold the theater chain to Cohen Media Group in 2018. 

A spokesperson with Open Realty Advisors, the property management group responsible for leasing Inwood Village, declined to comment on the lockout. Landmark and Cohen Media Group did not respond to emails. The theater’s Facebook page has not been updated since January 11, and its website shows no movie listings as of Thursday.

Built in 1947, the Inwood is one of the few remaining movie theaters in Dallas built between the 1930s and 1940s. The Texas Theatre, which opened in 1931, remains one of the city’s best moviegoing experiences, melding film with events and a popular bar. The Magnolia in West Village is still open as a Violet Crown location, showing a mix of arthouse, older, and mainstream films. Highland Park Village’s Village Theatre shuttered during the pandemic and is now a Ralph Lauren store. The Forest Theater ceased showing movies in the 1960s.

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Local News

Leading Off (2/22/24)

Matt Goodman
By |

WFAA: Broadnax Orchestrated Exit. Citing “sources” and unnamed council members, WFAA pieced together what happened away from public view before the city manager announced his resignation. According to Jason Whitely, T.C. Broadnax approached Councilman Jaime Resendez and told him he planned to quit. Resendez, the report says, then identified seven more council members who would ask for Broadnax’s resignation. Requesting the city manager to resign would trigger a clause in his contract that gives him a payout worth 12 months of his salary: $432,247. And they kept it quiet from the mayor, who had tried and failed to organize Broadnax’s firing in 2022.

Charter Commission Votes Against Moving Municipal Elections to November. Proponents believe that punting elections to November would increase the city’s absolutely dismal turnout. The 9-6 vote to keep them as-is was reflective of concern that moving city elections from May to November would insert partisan politics into nonpartisan races. Never mind that the mayor of the city made a big to-do about changing his political party and then launched an advocacy group for Republican mayors. We’re already selectively partisan.

There Is a Giant Cell Phone Outage Right Now. AT&T customers are likely without service this morning. T-Mobile and Verizon folks are at risk, but don’t seem as affected. The service disruption began around 3 a.m and AT&T hasn’t said what happened or when service will be restored.

Local News

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax Has Announced His Resignation

Matt Goodman
By |
t c broadnax dallas city manager
City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who was hired to run Dallas in 2017. Jonathan Zizzo

City Manager T.C. Broadnax will resign June 3 at the behest of a majority of the City Council, which cited the broken relationship with Mayor Eric Johnson as a primary factor in their decision. Six council members drafted an announcement that, in part, says “the dynamic between these key citywide figures has unfortunately hindered the realization of our city’s full potential.”

“It is imperative that we address this issue head-on in order to move forward,” the release says. “It is essential to recognize that effective governance requires collective effort and a shared commitment to the well-being of our community.”

Council members Jaime Resendez, Jaynie Schultz, Omar Narvaez, Adam Bazaldua, Zarin Gracey, and Gay Donnell Willis worked together to draft the release. Council Member Paula Blackmon also said in an interview with D Magazine that she would support the city manager’s firing but did not help with the announcement.

“In order to have a successful city, the mayor and the city manager have to work together,” said Blackmon, who served as chief of staff under Mayor Mike Rawlings and deputy chief of staff in Mayor Tom Leppert’s office. She cited what she said were successful partnerships between former City Manager John Ware and Mayor Ron Kirk, as well as former City Manager Mary Suhm and mayors Laura Miller, Leppert, and Rawlings.

“When you have a dysfunctional relationship, you get chaos,” Blackmon said.

Johnson and Broadnax have spent years waging private and public battles over the direction of the city and their responsibilities. In Dallas’ form of government, the city manager is essentially the chief executive. He plans and oversees a $4.3 billion budget and more than 14,000 employees. The mayor creates and assigns committees and runs Council meetings, in addition to organizing volunteer-led task forces and other adjacent initiatives. But he is one vote of 15, and the city manager follows the will of the Council as a whole.

The mayor and city manager rarely meet together, instead choosing to communicate through memos. Johnson quietly led an attempt to fire Broadnax in 2022, which ultimately failed. But the push progressed far enough that three council members privately offered Broadnax the opportunity to resign, Willis said at the time.

“We thought that was the best course of action,” she said then.

That appears to be the same process a majority of the Council took this month, which avoids a discussion over the city manager’s performance. The first attempt to remove him came after the collapse of the city’s permitting system, which caused monthslong delays to new commercial and residential construction projects. There was also a widely publicized I.T. failure in which millions of pieces of police data were deleted during a server migration; the Council was not notified for over a year.

Many of the calamities, particularly permitting, were lying in wait. But the city manager’s relationship with the mayor often made it more difficult to align on solutions. Even recent planning for the $1.25 billion bond was marred by their inability to communicate. The mayor created a volunteer-led task force to make recommendations on how to spend the money it planned to borrow, but the city manager prioritized the analysis of his staff. The mayor was absent when the community task force presented its report, which caused more confusion about what set of numbers the City Council should be working from.

“We have no North Star as a Council. I can only hope that this deep loss to our city results in leadership that we have been lacking,” read a statement from Bazaldua.

If their relationship is truly holding city governance back, the Council has only so many levers it can pull. And one of those, per the city charter, is assembling eight votes to support firing the city manager. Johnson’s second term will last through 2027.

“Our priority needs to be effective governance instead of personal ambitions; we need to be focused on running a government that serves its people and unites us as One Dallas,” Bazaldua said.

Gracey and Resendez, who helped draft the Council’s letter, have not responded to requests for comment. (Resendez’s council liaison was listed as a press contact on the news release.) Council members Carolyn King Arnold, Paul Ridley, and Jesse Moreno also have not responded to voicemails and text messages.

Council Member Tennell Atkins said just before 4 p.m. that the news was “a shock to me” and “I really don’t know what’s going on. … I was not one of those City Council members involved in the conversation. It’s new to me,” he said. “I just found out through someone calling me.”

Council Member Chad West said in a prepared statement that “we must and will keep the city’s momentum going in our housing, economic development, environmental, and parks and trail efforts. Dallas is a city on the move, and I look forward to working with whomever steps up to the plate in the coming weeks.”

In a statement, Johnson said he briefly spoke with Broadnax about his decision. He downplayed just how much the two were reportedly at loggerheads.

“TC was tough — he often knew what he wanted for Dallas and would fight hard for it. And I would do the same,” the mayor said. “We did not always see eye to eye, but we still worked together to help move this city forward.”

Johnson said he would have more to say about a national search for Broadnax’s replacement soon.

Resendez, Schultz, and Bazaldua have filed a three-person memo requesting a special-called meeting to consider appointing Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert as the interim replacement. Tolbert has worked closely alongside Broadnax since he began in 2017. Her biography on the city website calls her “the City Manager’s top trusted advisor.”

While Broadnax may have gotten crosswise with the mayor, staffers who worked closely to him frequently praised his leadership. One staff member who spoke on background said that he was “so loved here.” He broke the news of his departure to the group this afternoon. Staffers reportedly reacted with “tears and long faces.”

Broadnax then sent a message to the rest of City Hall announcing his decision. He wrote that he hoped his “departure provides the City Council an opportunity to reset, refocus, and transition to a new City manager that continues to move the City forward and will allow for a more effective working relationship with the Mayor and City Council moving forward.”

Broadnax and his staff were overseeing or involved in several major projects, including a $1.25 billion May bond election; the plan to bring the city’s pensions for police and firefighters and city employees to solvency; the once-a-decade review of the city’s charter; and a new convention center, transit hub, and high-speed rail station downtown. 

He will still be a city employee when voters decide on the bond propositions and the Council weighs in on changes to the charter, but he will be gone before many of those tasks will be completed.

The City Council unanimously approved Broadnax’s hiring in December 2016, making him the city’s first chief executive from outside Dallas in decades. He previously served as city manager in Tacoma, Washington, and as assistant city manager in San Antonio and Pompano Beach, Florida. The City Council will appoint an interim city manager at some point in the future.

This is a developing story and we’ll have more information shortly.

Bethany Erickson contributed to this report.

Local News

Erykah Badu Will Soon Stare at You From DART Buses and Trains

Christopher Mosley
By Christopher Mosley |
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Erykah Badu announcing her partnership with DART, at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Can Erykah Badu save the planet? We are, after all, living in the hottest February in the history of record-keeping, a fact that was too obvious to ignore as we stood in the sun outside the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on Tuesday afternoon.

Badu was there, at her alma mater, standing alongside a small roster of public works dignitaries eager to introduce a marketing initiative that had been in the works for more than half a decade. Badu’s face will soon be on two buses and three light-rail trains as they crisscross Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s 13 member cities. 

The goal, as these branding opportunities go, is to get more people to ride. It sounds simple, but it is in line with far more ambitious challenges. If Dallas wants to meet its climate goals, it will need to cut emissions. It certainly could not hurt to start by getting more people to step aboard a bus, and who better than Badu to encourage such a behavioral change? 

Badu’s likeness will stare out at traffic from a few DART buses and trains that have been wrapped in purple and pink. The words “BADU BUS” are flanked by a pair of portraits of the superstar artist who kept her hometown as her home. 

“Yes, I am the DART cover girl,” said Badu, who took the stage with her fists raised above her braids. “I am the perfect poor person for this job.”



Local News

Leading Off (2/21/24)

Matt Goodman
By |

Officers Fired 19 Times at Mesquite Student. As Tim wrote yesterday, a 16-year-old was shot by police at Pioneer Technology and Arts Academy Oates campus on Monday after pulling a gun in the school’s office. Officers fired 19 times and struck the kid in the leg; he never fired his weapon. All shots were “confined to the office,” which was located at the end of a hall away from classrooms.

Teen Missing From Northwest Dallas. Police fear that Liliana Campos, 13, is lost and needs medical help. She disappeared on Tuesday morning from the 9800 block of Brockbank Drive, which is close to Lombardy Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard. The department is thin on details, but she’s 5’6 and 180 pounds.

Perot Museum Donating 1 Million Eclipse Glasses. The museum is giving the glasses away to 40 school districts across the region, including Dallas ISD, Denton ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and Arlington ISD. They’ll also fan out across community events, including Klyde Warren Park’s watch party. The eclipse is Monday, April 8.

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